Geographic Board’s myth-take with a fish tale

Bugger me. Alf was bracing himself to take a ping at the idea of the North Island being known as Te Ika a Maui.

This – he believed – would give dubious credence to a tale about some legendary bloke called Maui fishing up the North Island. It’s the stuff of mythology, not maps.

But Maori leader and academic David Rankin is criticising the Geographic Board, too, for considering changing the name of the North Island to Te Ika a Maui.

He points out that the legend about the fish of Maui was a largely European-inspired idea, because Maori could only have known that the shape of the North Island resembled a fish after having seen maps produced by early European explorers.

“This means that the name North Island predates Te Ika a Maui”, says Mr. Rankin, “and so it is not traditional at all”.

Rankin – obviously a bright bloke – therefore has ridiculed the Geographic Board

for their cultural ignorance on this matter, and for disregarding tribal histories in favour of fabricated stories with no substance.

“If the Geographic Board persists with this erroneous proposal of using Te Ika a Maui for the name of the North Island”, says Mr. Rankin, “then they will be opening themselves up to all sorts of accusations of incompetence, and I will be leading that charge”.

That leaves Alf to grumble only about the time taken by the New Zealand Geographic Board Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa (its full cumbersome name) to find official alternative Māori names for the North and South Islands.

According to the spin doctors:

For several years the Board has been investigating Māori names for New Zealand’s two main islands and exploring a process for formally recognising alternative Māori names for each island.

This implies there are no obvious Maori names, and that a great deal of time and effort has gone into finding some.

It also raises the question: how much time and effort is being invested in a hunt for Maori names for other New Zealand places to keep the board in a job?

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